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Tipsheet

New Polls: Trump Beats DeSantis but Loses to Biden

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

First off, I understand looking at polling with healthy skepticism.  That's fair enough.  But the polling correctly anticipated Democrats' blue wave in 2018, Joe Biden's victory in 2020, and was pretty spot-on in 2022.  With the exception of occasional one-off surveys showing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis leading former President Donald Trump in individual state 2024 primary match-ups (recently Florida and Utah, for example), Trump has firmly established his frontrunner status in the national GOP polling. After faltering in the wake of Republicans' underwhelming performance in the 2022 midterms -- in which Trump was a quantifiable drag on the party for the third consecutive election -- Trump has regained his footing, then has bounced out to sizable leads following his politicized indictment at the hands of New York City's left-wing, Soros-backed District Attorney.

If a nationwide contest to select the GOP's next nominee were to happen any time soon, Trump would run away with it: 

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Part of the reason Trump continues to blast away at DeSantis (and his state) on a constant basis is because DeSantis is the only Republican who appears to be remotely competitive against Trump in the nomination race -- as a yet-undeclared candidate. He's clearly checking a lot of boxes in the run-up to an expected announcement, but he's not in yet. Another reason is that DeSantis has, at least at the moment, a strong electability case to press against Trump. One new poll shows that most Republican voters believe Trump has the best chance of defeating Joe Biden, despite what independent and swing voters have clearly demonstrated in 2018, 2020, and 2022:


The trouble is that as Trump strengthens his grip on the GOP base, the people who decide national elections do not want Trump to be president again:

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That's a huge and potentially very consequential gap between Republican sentiment and independent sentiment.  It's true that Joe Biden's approval numbers are awful, and that 70 percent of Americans don't want him to seek re-election (he announced yesterday that he's doing so anyway), which is a problem for Democrats.  But among marginally-attached voters and those who disapprove of both Trump and Biden, Biden wins head-to-head, if that's the choice:

Mr. Biden leads by a wider margin among what the Journal’s pollsters—Democrat John Anzalone and Republican Tony Fabrizio—identified as another important swing group: voters who only “somewhat” approve or disapprove of either of the two candidates’ work in the White House...Mr. Fabrizio, who works for a pro-Trump super PAC, said that Mr. Biden tops Mr. Trump by a big margin, 54% to 15%, among voters who disapprove of how both men have handled the office of the presidency.


Those who dislike both options -- a large majority of voters, based on current national polling -- would break heavily for Biden, if forced to do so.  We'll see if Republican primary voters force them to do so. Trump raged at his own pollster over his work on that Wall Street Journal poll, which showed Trump leading DeSantis by double digits in the primary, but trailing Joe Biden again in a general (whereas DeSantis leads Biden head-to-head). Look at both the national and state-level numbers:

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DeSantis fares six net points better against Biden than Trump does (a new NBC poll with dreadful numbers for Biden shows the incumbent trailing a 'generic Republican' by six points, but leading Trump on favorability by nine points).  A few other state-level general election data points amid overwhelmingly strong primary data points for Trump: 


And then there's this data-driven read on the overall electoral map, which is extremely early, so take it with a chunk of salt -- but also two additional points, which I'll list below: 

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(1) Despite this analysis being commissioned by a pro-DeSantis group the pollster is well-regarded. (2) If Trump has a double-digit 'electability' perception advantage among Republican voters, those voters had better be sure they're right, and that the trend of the last three cycles will suddenly revert back to the 2016 upset dynamic. There's actually quite a bit of electoral data from 2018, 2020, 2022 -- and now 2023 polling -- that strongly suggests otherwise.  If the party is interested in winning, that should matter.  The next election is too important to blow on an avoidable loss.   Parting thought: Trump has been throwing everything up against the wall to scuff up DeSantis before the Florida governor gets in, and might even try to lobby against legislation in Tallahassee that would allow DeSantis to run for president without first resigning his current office.  If he were to opt out of GOP primary debates, under the mentality that he's basically an incumbent who doesn't need to face his challengers, would that be a sign of strength or weakness?  And would it have any impact on Republican voters?


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